If the Occupy Wall Street movement is "America's first true Internet-era movement," as CNN's Douglas Rushkoff contended in a blog post last week, it's actual Internet presence leaves a lot to be desired. He called the protest "a way of life that spreads through contagion [and] creates as many questions as it answers." And instead of identifying its enemy and fighting, "Occupy Wall Street just sits there talking with itself, debating its own worth, recognizing its internal inconsistencies and then continuing on as if this were some sort of new normal." So, to try to apply some of the Internet's ability to get groups talking, Occupy Wall Street is getting its own social network. Due to launch on Thursday night, the goal of the homegrown Facebook analog is to give the movement's disparate members, organizers, and working groups a central place to communicate online. Its developers hope the site will work as a microcosm of the community that's sprung up in Zuccotti Park, which they see in turn as a microcosm for the kind of society they want to create.
The new site, called nycga.net (for New York City Genral Assembly) and developed in open-source WordPress with a plug-in called BuddyPress, works as an electronic representation of the GA meeting. "Essentially, the site is the general assembly," said Drew Hornbein, a 24-year-old web developer from Brooklyn. Hornbein and five other guys -- the members of the amorphous Internet working group that happened to show up that day -- sat around a table Wednesday night in Charlotte's Place, a free, public space operated by the Trinity Wall Street Episcopal church around the corner from Zuccotti Park. They were putting the finishing touches on nycga.net and arguing about how to keep it open to all. Jonathan Thaler, a 47-year-old mobile web developer from the Upper West Side who left a 15-year career at Standard and Poor's, asked how members of a group could communicate without posting their conversation publicly. "I bring my corporate baggage with me," Thaler later said. "But I love this. Five minutes after I stepped off the sidewalk, I was collaborating with people."